One time during a ministry event I was hiking through the woods with a group of middle school boys. The sky was clear, the temperature was perfect, and there were no bugs. It was a fun middle school ministry moment. But something else about the moment made it particularly exceptional.
The boys in my group were talking! They were jabbering away— completely unprovoked. I didn’t have to do any work to sustain the conversation. I said a few things here and there but mostly marveled at observing 12 year-olds attempt to articulate their thoughts.
An important lesson came to light in the midst of all their talking: If you want to get middle school boys to talk, do stuff! Guys that age will usually not sit down across from an adult, look the adult in the eye, and engage in meaningful conversation. Their minds and bodies aren’t yet ready for that level of interaction.
However, it’s a totally different ballgame if you try to talk to them while doing something active that requires physical movement. That’s a big reason why our conversation flowed so easily in the woods a few nights ago. We weren’t sitting around a table answering questions. We were on a mission, exploring the outdoors.
The next time you want to have a conversation with a middle school boy, try to talk to him while you’re doing some sort of physical activity. His mouth is more willing to move when the rest of his body is moving, too. Here are some of my go-to activities when trying to talk to middle school boys:
- Play catch back and forth with a football or Frisbee. Catching and throwing are repetitive motions that free up his brain to be more focused on the conversation.
- Play a game of HORSE on a basketball court. A regular game of 1-on-1 is too intense for conversation, but a simple shooting game allows room to talk.
- Play disc golf (also known as Frisbee golf). Disc golf is good for conversation because it’s usually free and active but it’s not taxing enough to prevent you from talking with fellow players.
- Go for a hike. Get outside and talk while you walk. You’ll get the added benefit of exercise!
- Go to a local mall and walk around. It’s a hike for people who like to be in air conditioning.
Talking to middle school boys is not as easy as talking with middle school girls or with mature adults, but it’s worth the effort. It helps us get to know them better, sharpens their own communication skills, and communicates to them that we love them!